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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 12/13/14

Charter Schools Accused of Segregating America's Education System

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Reprinted from AlterNet

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Delaware case points to increased racial stratification as result of charter schools.


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Charter schools are often promoted as a tool to address educational inequities, but a potential precedent-setting legal case launched earlier this month says the opposite. In filings with the U.S. Department of Education, two Delaware nonprofit groups allege that some of the state's publicly funded, privately managed schools are actively resegregating the education system -- and in a way that violates federal civil rights law.
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The complaint, by the Delaware branch of the American Civil Liberties Union and the Community Legal Aid Society, cites data showing that more than three-quarters of Delaware's charter schools are "racially identifiable" -- a term that describes schools whose demographics are substantially different from the surrounding community.

According to the complaint, "High-performing charter schools are almost entirely racially identifiable as white" while "low-income students and students with disabilities are disproportionately relegated to failing charter schools and charter schools that are racially identifiable as African-American or Hispanic."

The groups are asking the Obama administration to take specific steps, including prohibiting subjective admissions policies for charter schools and barring extra fees for attending charter schools -- factors they say discriminate against low-income, disabled and minority students.
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Because the case is being filed with the federal government, these actions could have implications for school districts everywhere -- and there is already plenty of data tying charter schools to segregation.

In 2010, a University of Colorado report analyzing charter schools found that "as compared with the public school district in which the charter school resided, the charter schools were substantially more segregated by race, wealth, disabling condition and language." Similarly, in reviewing a decade worth of research about charter schools, George Washington University education researcher Iris Rotberg earlier this year concluded that "charter schools often lead to increased school segregation ... and lead to the stratification of students who were previously in integrated environments."

Meanwhile, a General Accountability Office study in 2012 showed that "charter schools enrolled a lower percentage of students with disabilities than traditional public schools."

The causes of educational segregation are a point of debate. Charter school defenders, for example, argue that the trends may merely reflect geography.

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David Sirota is a full-time political journalist, best-selling author and nationally syndicated newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He blogs for Working Assets and the Denver Post's PoliticsWest website. He is a Senior Editor at In These Times magazine, which in 2006 received the Utne Independent Press Award for political coverage. His 2006 book, Hostile Takeover, was a New York Times bestseller, and is now out in paperback. He has been a guest on, among others, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC and NPR. His writing, which draws on his (more...)
 

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